A PACKED house today at Lane Farm, Crooklands, gathered to hear of a ‘fantastic year’ for the Westmorland County Agricultural Society Limited.

The charity stages the annual Westmorland County Show on the second Thursday of September and today officially declared 2013 a record-breaker.

Over 30,000 people visited and there was a record 1026 entries in the sheep section and 478 in the cattle - just two short of the 2012 record.

The cattle section involved Beef Shorthorn classes for the first time while the grand parade saw more cattle than ever taking part.

There was also record entries in the 'young handler' classes in both sheep and cattle, members were told.

Entries in the Alpaca classes and poultry section also increased last year, while stands for the 2014 event on September 11 this year are already a third booked up.

The organisation’s balance sheet is ‘really strong’ said auditors, due in part to record gate receipts, programme brochures and trade stands.

The society’s other main event - Countryfest - will take place again on Saturday May 31 and Sunday June 1 after a successful 2013.

Giving her speech to the 215-year-old society’s annual general meeting, chief executive Christine Knipe said the visit to last year’s show by Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, would live long in the memory.

“The 2013 show was made even more special by the first ever Royal Visit for in our 214 year history," said Mrs Knipe.

"It was a huge honour for the society, members and volunteers. The difference a Royal visitor made was amazing and all the behind-the-scenes planning was worth it and will be long remembered,” said Mrs Knipe.

That was supported by outgoing President Tom Gorst, who handed over the reins to incoming President and retired bank manager, Bob Bond, from Bolton-le-Sands.

Mr Gorst, formerly of Killington, said it had been a honour to serve as president during 2013 which was capped by the arrival of a grandchild and the attendance of HRH at the event.

"I found her a remarkable, down-to-earth lady who made me feel at ease right away and it was a privilege to be in her company," he said.

Meanwhile Mrs Knipe stressed that the economic benefit of the show extended beyond the society - helping local B&Bs, hotels and petrol stations, among others.

And she added: “The backbone of the society are its members, stewards and volunteers. Without their support, our work and the show itself, could not be enjoyed by so many. We are very lucky to have such a great team.”

The last year also saw the society ‘over-achieve’ in training people with over 568 through the doors for courses as varied as mole-catching to information technology.

Over 1570 children and staff from 43 primary schools also experienced life on a working farm - thanks to the society and the Mason family who run the 270-acre Heaves Farm, Levens.

“It was very rewarding for children and our own farmers alike,” said Mrs Knipe, who closed by saying the society was hoping for ‘a long, dry hot summer’.